Low back loads while walking and carrying: comparing the load carried in one hand or in both hands

Stuart M. McGill, Leigh Marshall, Jordan Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigates the consequences of carrying load in one hand versus both hands. Six participants walked carrying buckets containing various weights. The weight was either carried in one hand or distributed evenly between both hands. Electromyography, force plate and body kinematic data were input to a three-dimensional anatomically detailed model of the spine to calculate spine loading. Carrying loads in one hand resulted in more load on the low back than when the load was split between both hands. When carrying 30 kg in one hand, the low back compression exceeded 2800 N; however, splitting the load between hands reduced low back compression to 1570 N (reduction of 44%). Doubling the total load by carrying 30 kg in each hand actually produced lower spine compression than when carrying 30 kg in one hand. Balancing the load between both hands when carrying material has merit and should be considered when designing work.

Practitioner Summary: Carrying a load in one hand (30 kg) resulted in more spine load than splitting the same load between both hands (15 kg). When carrying double the load in both hands (30 kg in each hand vs. 30 kg in one hand), spine load decreased, suggesting merit in balancing load when designing work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-302
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • carrying
  • spine loads
  • electromyography
  • load carriage


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